Who Cares About DUI?
Information courtesy of Lawrence Taylor - DUIblog
For many years now I've written and lectured extensively on drunk driving litigation --on the science of blood and breath alcohol analysis, the flaws in breathalyzers, the ineffectiveness of field sobriety testing. In recent years, however, my focus has increasingly shifted to the gradual erosion of constitutional rights in DUI cases.
So who cares about drunk drivers and their constitutional rights?
You should care. The importance of what is happening in DUI law and procedures can be summarized in one word: precedent.
We are a nation of laws, more specifically, the common law inherited from the British legal system. Unlike most nations, which use some version of the French civil law where laws are found in codes, we look to the precedent of judicial decisions interpreting statutory law. When a court looks at the facts in a specific case, it applies not only statutes but decisions in appellate court cases to determine what the law is. The genius of this common law system of precedent is its flexibility; its flaw is what many call "judicial legislation".
The flaw becomes particularly noticeable when dealing with politically unpopular subjects. And few topics are as politically "incorrect" as drunk driving. Judges are, after all, politically sensitive animals who want to be reelected. Put another way, it is very easy to rule in favor of the prosecution in DUI cases -- particularly when powerful pressure groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (annual revenues of over $47 million) are so vocal in elections and in legislatures. There are few advocates for the accused or the Constitution during election campaigns.
This judicial attitude is not limited to judges considering re-election. A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent in depriving the accused in DUI cases their constitutional rights. To mention a few examples:
Michigan v. Sitz. The Court held that sobriety